Poke Cakes for Any Occasion

This retro cake is making a comeback.

September 12, 2020
By: Katherine Lok

Poke cakes are exactly what they sound like: They're cakes you poke holes in after baking to infuse with a delectable gooey liquid, such as a caramel or ganache. Similar in idea to a tres leches cake or a sticky toffee pudding, poke cakes have been around since the '70s, when Jell-O coined the term and advertised it as a "Rainbow Cake" that was moist, colorful and filled with fruity flavor.

While the name didn't exactly catch on, this retro cake has seen a renaissance in recent years, though it has since branched out into other flavors. These days you'll find poke cakes infused with coffee, alcohol and even candy! After all these years, they're still a fun way to add more flavor into every bite and ensure your cake turns out moist, delicious and maybe even a little decadent. It's also a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen — they'll love to do the poking and pouring. To help get you started, we've rounded up our best recipes for poke cakes that are fit for any occasion.

Decadent Chocolate Poke Cake (pictured above)

Ree Drummond remembers her grandmother (Ga-Ga) making poke cakes when she was a kid and even getting to help poke and pour the mixture over the cake. This decadent shortcut version uses boxed cake mix, condensed milk in the pour-over mixture and instant chocolate pudding for the frosting. It's a perfect dessert to whip up for your family, no fancy ingredients required.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

This strawberry poke cake looks like it could be the Rainbow Cake's cousin, but a less-sweet version that incorporates tangy buttermilk in the cake batter. While you're making the whipped cream topping, leave the refrigerated cake out on the counter — it's best eaten when slightly chilled.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

This lime poke cake follows the same exact recipe as the Strawberry Poke Cake, but it features lime gelatin and green sanding sugar for festive color. It makes a great addition to any St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Food Network Kitchen's Thai Coffee Poke Cake, as seen on Food Network.

Food Network Kitchen's Thai Coffee Poke Cake, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Coffee lovers are in for a treat with this poke cake that's sure to perk you up. The flavors of Thai coffee — condensed milk and cardamom — add richness and warmth in every bite.

Food Network Kitchen’s Irish Cream Poke Cake

Food Network Kitchen’s Irish Cream Poke Cake

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

For an adult twist on a coffee poke cake, break out the Irish cream liqueur! All the classic flavors of Irish coffee come together in this decadent cake that's topped with whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate and chopped espresso beans.

A Pina Colada poke cake, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

A Pina Colada poke cake, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Photo by: David Katz

David Katz

If you like pina coladas (sing that part), then you'll love this poke cake that's filled with the flavors of coconut, pineapple and rum. Topped with toasted coconut and maraschino cherries, this fun cocktail-inspired dessert is sure to be a hit.

Food Network Kitchen's Holiday Mirror Cake recipe, using Jello

Food Network Kitchen's Holiday Mirror Cake recipe, using Jello

Photo by: Lucy Schaeffer

Lucy Schaeffer

Vibrant red and green colors make this poke cake the star of any holiday meal. The mesmerizing mirror glaze is achieved by using flavored gelatin, which is also incorporated inside the cake. It's sure to impress your guests and anyone on your Instagram feed.

Food Network Kitchen’s Banoffee Poke Cake for One-Off Recipes, as seen on Food Network.

Food Network Kitchen’s Banoffee Poke Cake for One-Off Recipes, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Bananas and caramel are a delicious dessert combo, and this poke cake amps up the flavor with two hits of both, including your favorite chocolate-covered caramel candies. It's best eaten right away; the candies become slightly melted and gooey inside the cake after baking.

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